The IFB News Pipe

Guest Blog: The Talent Pipeline – what are you doing about it?

23 October 2013

Ian Allison

I was at a breakfast meeting a few weeks ago where it was evident that companies are struggling to recruit and retain talent. But what are they doing about it? Well I suspect paying more in salaries obviously, offshoring and lining the pockets of recruitment agents.

Aberdeen is not alone – companies across the country are experiencing great difficulty in securing the skilled IT staff they need to grow their businesses. For many years now reports have identified a growing demand. In the ScotlandIS 2013 survey, 70% of digital business companies were expecting to recruit staff in the coming year, with software development skills being the primary area of demand. e-skills estimate that 9600 new entrants will be required in the sector each year for the next 3 years.

Recent data shows that 100% of the RGU 2012 graduates from courses such as Computer Science, Business Information Systems and Multimedia Development were employed or in further study. Since then I have noticed a real change of tempo. The number of employers wanting to recruit our graduates has risen dramatically – with several requests a week for posts to be filled or seeking opportunities to pitch their company to current students! With some companies planning to take on 10 or more graduates annually it is easy to see how the graduates quickly secure positions. And I am already hearing of final years with secured positions for next summer.

So what should you do about it? First, in terms of recruitment, engage early with students and be prepared to invest time and money on students – taking them on as placements, sponsoring students or get actively involved in courses. This makes you attractive to the student but also it helps to provide a bridge for graduates into work. And once you have them ensure that there is a good development programme to keep them.

Beyond recruitment though I think our profession / sector needs to stand up and make sure we build the future pipeline of talent. You could lobby your MSP or local councillor to ensure they are prioritising computing education in schools, colleges and universities. Or your MP about the difficulty and cost in recruiting the many excellent international students in the city because of immigration legislation imposed by the Home Office. I suspect many of them do not understand that there is an issue – if you make them aware of the economic opportunities for the city then they will take notice.

More directly – what have you / your organisation done to encourage school pupils to become the future talent in the digital sector? We see plenty being done in oil and gas engineering but not software engineering, computer science, networking or digital media. Organisations need to think about the long term, but that’s not easy as it does not result in short term bottom line results.

We have a pupil-student-professional event in November and a Christmas lecture on security for pupils, and grateful for the support of many individuals’ for offering to support these. Demand is growing for our courses, but this is by drawing from beyond the country boundaries, there is insufficient interest from the brightest ‘home’ pupils. Public perception of the discipline and a lack of intellectually stimulation in schools has put youngsters off the subject. With Curriculum for Excellence there is a chance to change that but at present many schools are withdrawing from this subject – putting our digital economy at risk. So, how about getting out and supporting your local school – adopt a teacher and help them to make the subject engaging, invest in them to ensure they are getting the development they need, and help to show pupils there is a bright and fascinating career ahead in the digital sector?

It’s up to you to ensure your talent pipeline is strong this year, next year and in 5 years! Don’t assume it will happen automatically.

Professor Ian Allison: Head of School of Computing Science and Digital Media Robert Gordon University

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